NOAA/Google Weather Maps

When I was a kid, we listened to the local radio station for updates on impending snow storms. Next came storm tracking updates from the local broadcast TV news with updates on the half hour.

While at UMF in the early 90’s, one the computer center staff created a program that rendered raw NOAA satellite data over an image of a Maine map. We could see real-time satellite maps of a comming storm – if you counted the 30 minute rendering time on a 286 PC and nearly as long downloading the data files over the university 56k line.

Later, I remember hovering over for updated views and reports.

This morning, we are on the bleeding edge of Web 2.0 as the boys hover over the NOAA’s beta display . Their NEXRAD maps use a composite of Google Maps, radar images and weather warnings complete with animated time loops.

Now, if they could only do real-time Street View of the storm so I know when the plow trucks have blocked in the end of the driveway!


Email to SMS Gateways

Most major cellular carriers provide an email address for each user that will forward email as a text message to their phone. I have been digging around to find providers local to my area (central Maine) with the idea of creating a SMS prayer list tool.

Just so I don’t lose track of these:

Alltel –
AT&T/Cingular –
Boost Mobile –
US Cellular –
Nextel –
Sprint PCS –
T-Mobile –
Verizon –
Virgin Mobile –

There is a huge list available here.

General Learning

StumbleUpon Alternatives for Your Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar

If your a StumbleUpon addict like myself, chances are, you have gotten “You have seen all your topic here pages. Explore others…” as a result of pecking at the “Stumble!” button like a demented, tic-tac-toe playing chicken.
While reviewing more sites can add a little spark back into your stumbles, it’s a bit of a “cart and horse” problem if the main way you find interesting sites is through StumbleUpon. It seems some alternatives are in order. If you are using Firefox, drag any of the following links to your Bookmarks Toolbar:

  1. Random Wikipedia – Wikipedia provides a special link that will pick an interesting article for you to read –
  2. Random – provides a link redirecting you to one of it’s more recently added links.
  3. Random Google – If you have Google Web History turned on, this link,, will take you to a random link related to your previous surfing history. Google provides the same functionality through recent version of their Google Toolbar.

There are also StumbleUpon-like services out there, like SpinSnap and Youlicit, but I like keeping the above links around for a quick, random-link fix.

General linux

Firefox 3.0 is coming! (finally!)

The folks at have finally pick a release date for Firefox 3.0. As a Ubuntu user, I have been using the betas and release candidates for a while, but, for those not as willing to live on the edge like myself, mark “June 17th” on your calendar as the day to head over to pick up a copy. While your waiting, sign-up to help set a Guinness World Record for the most downloads of a software package in 24 hrs.
Of the tons of enhancements and new features, I would have to say some of my favorites are the faster, more standards compliant rendering engine, one-click bookmarks, and easier plugin searching and installation.
Now, I can’t wait for the new Javascript Just-in-Time compiler (Tamarin) to give some of those rich web apps a kick in the pants.

Coding General

12 Step Program for Ubuntu Update-Manager Addicts

Hi, my name is Chris.

I am Ubuntu update-manager addict.

I began innocently enough, sometime back in Febuary, I ran ‘update-manager -d‘ to get a peek at Unbuntu Hardy Heron. Since that time I have been unable to resist the little orange “Updates Available” icon. Checking two or three times a day for improved progams, bug fixes, and new features. Swearing off updates after each bad dependency problem, only to run update again in hopes it will get fixed this time.

My family is tired of the home PCs being tied up running update-manager all the time and I’m not getting much done on my laptop while it’s burning up bandwidth updating the repository indexes. It’s time for an intervention.

I know I can’t break this habit alone, so I’m thinking of starting a 12 step program. I know there are others out there with the same problem so maybe a support group will help, all we have to do is:


Why your kids should read your blog…

Or “Requiem for a Sea-Monkey”

If you caught my last entry, you would know about the Sea-Monkeys. Yesterday, it came time to add the “Instant Life Eggs” package, and since Dad was busy, my son decided to help out. He read the package, took note of the fact sea-monkeys hatch faster if the tank is around 80F. Noting also that the room temperature was a little cooler, he took it on himself to warm up the water. While there are a variety of ways to warm up a small volume of water, I could sense a potential problem when I heard the tea kettle begin to boil in the kitchen. I rushed to the kitchen to find my first born ready to poor water from the steaming kettle into the sea-monkey’s tank.

General Learning

New Years Resolutions: Life Hacking

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’m not so much against the January 1st resolutions to do better, it’s the January 2nd failure to follow through that I hate. But this year has to be different. The last year has been one of contestant changes and challenges, adding a new member to the family, new responsibilities at work, at church, at home, and on line. Without a concerted effort to get organized and better manage the little details, 2008 is shaping up to be a real cluster.

To that end, I’ve started to used a number of web services that should help:

  1. Goggle Mail – I’ve been a gmail user for about two years, but just recently, I have begun to use their IMAP and POP3 services to consolidate a number of email accounts I have, including my home account. The search engine makes finding emails a breeze (what do you expect from Google?) and the ever growing list of add-on services and Firefox plugins make integrating gmail into the rest of my life easier and easier.
  2. Google Calendar – another great Google service, makes a good central hub for managing my time and keeping other up to date on what I’m doing.
  3. Remember The Milk – A very cool task list organizer with tons of options for reminders and integration with Google calendar.
  4. Jott – I just stumbled on to this web 2.0 beta – call the “866” number on my cell phone, leave a message, and it get transcribed into text and delivered to myself, a friend or even my Google calendar or RTM task lists.

Integrating these together, I can voice dial Jott, send a task to RTM, get reminders via my jabber account or SMS and view my calendar, a number of shared calendars, and my tasks all together on my Google calendar.
Of course, January 2nd hasn’t come yet, but 2008 is looking a little less chaotic from here…


Gutsy Gibbon Saved My Marriage!

“The computer won’t start.” My wife announced from the other room. My wife and kids share an older athlon 2300+ based eMachine for day-to-day computing. There are few things I dread more than at-home tech support issues, the customers can get so cranky and it’s hard to get them off the line in three minutes. But I knew better than to deprive Mrs. Jackson of her email or my youngest daughter of her Reader Rabbit (running under wine, BTW)
I had swapped out the hard drive recently with one I had on the self and taken the opportunity to install a fresh copy of Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon. I waited a day or so, thinking my shelf spare had died as well and I would need to go shopping, but when I finally took a closer look, I was getting no BIOS messages on the screen. Great, it’s really dead. Knowing the natives where getting restless, and would not be likely to standby patiently while I played musical parts so I pulled an old, retired server I had from the basement pile. It’s a dual CPU, PIII 550Mhz Tyan Tiger 133 with a Matrox G400.

I knew the hard drive in the server was bad, so I plugged in the 80gig from the wife’s desktop machine just to make sure the box would fire up, and lo and behold – It booted! I scrambled to plug in keyboard, mouse and network cable just in time for Gutsy to quiz me about what resolution I wanted to use on the Matrox card and minutes later my wife is booting me off to do her email (I think she needs a 12 step program for email…)

Think about it… The monitor, keyboard, mouse and hard drive are the same, everything else, mother board, CPU (two CPUs!), video card, network card, amount of memory, and sound card are all different, most of it older hardware and it just worked. No reinstall, no driver hunting, no phone call to the OS vendor to prove I’m not a software pirate, no nothing!

Thank you, Ubuntu!


Reading Through

I have been praying quite a bit lately about following a chronological reading plan through the bible in one year and blogging it as I go. While the reading isn’t all that intimidating (I have done one-year plans before) all that writing is. I know in the past, I’ve skipped forward, fallen behind, played catch-up, droned through some of the boring parts (OK, which bugs can I eat and which ones are destestable??) and hovered too long over some of the good stuff. While I know it’s called a One Year Plan – I don’t think it would be breaking the “rules” to get a head start so I can queue up some bog entries and see how it goes. Gospelcom and E-Word Today have a variety of plans including a chronological one I believe I will use.


Making the Cut on BlogRush

I added the BlogRush widget to this site a while back. My hits when up, but almost as important, I really liked the quality of the links being associated with om site. I couldn’t help but checkout a few of the links myself (I hope this isn’t against the rules ). I have been following BlogRush’s blog as they are rolling out a bunch of new improvements, with some excitement but a little concern. Inorder to keep the quality of the links up, the BlogRush team have been reviewing allow of the site currently registered by hand, eventually removing over 10,000 blogs from the system. For some reason I thought I might be a candidate for removal since they kept talking about removing “low quality” blogs. With such a subjective metric (at least they weren’t letting on what the criteria was) I could help but worry about my low post rate (really, I plan to post more…), my lack of readership/comments/backlinks (why doesn’t anybody like my blog…), even my grammar (Hey – I am from Maine, after all…) and wonder it I would make the cut.

Well, the waiting is over, they finished the audit yesterday and I can still see my little BlogRush widget. I made the cut! I’m not sure what that means, I don’t plan on letting it go to my head, but it’s nice to know someone looked at my blog and decided it Sucked Less(tm) that at least 10,000 other blogs.